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Chinese firms play key role in skills development, job creation in Africa

Both big and small Chinese companies doing business in Africa are playing a crucial role in skills development and job creation, a South Africa international relations expert said on Friday.

In an interview with Xinhua in Johannesburg, Scott Firsing said involvement of foreign companies in sustainable development through job creation and skills development is important towards uplifting Africa social and economic status.

"Chinese companies are in some places creating jobs for locals. Furthermore, some Chinese companies do provide training to Africans in technical areas such as agriculture and telecommunications," said Firsing, a senior lecturer in international studies at Monash University.

For instance, he said, in Sierra Leone Chinese companies have invested in plantations and a tractor factory, contributing to job creation. Shoes being made in Ethiopia have also increased due to Chinese investment, bringing jobs in the African country and boosting its exports.

In Algeria, Groupe Mazouz announced that it has entered into a partnership with the Chinese Higer for the assembling of the Higer minibuses that will hopefully create 1,200 local jobs, he added.

"In many African countries Chinese companies are also providing paid or unpaid internships to locals so they can at least get some work experience on their curriculum vitae (CV) and they can begin to build up their skills, which is a very critical element of job hunting."

However, Firsing, who is also the president of the Young People in International Affairs (YPIA), urged Chinese companies to do more to provide training opportunities for the African youth in the manufacturing sector.

"If this occurs, Africa can go through its own industrial revolution similar to China and in time will become a major exporter of goods, rather than just resources, to Asia," he said.

According to Firsing, African governments should also offer some incentives such as tax breaks to foreign firms that create local jobs for Africans, especially in specific areas where the demand is high.

Moreover, there should be similar incentives if foreign firms can provide technology transfers or high tech skills through on the job training that are often much needed.

Besides skills development and job creation, Firsing said, Chinese presence in Africa has helped raise the attention about Africa's potential, which is a contributor of increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

They have provided much-needed infrastructure in several places, which is often the strong base needed to build an economy, Firsing added.

China's investment is also looking to expand beyond the energy and mineral sectors, providing capital to manufacturing and assembly plants in areas like automobiles.

Firsing said China's decision to establish some of its flagship Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones (ECTZs) on the continent is a welcome development in Africa.

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